Critical Analysis Of Quality Improvement In Management Education

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The study was carried out with the purpose of understanding global trends in management and higher education and how challenges of future needs are addressed in different parts of the world so as to recommend possible approaches for consideration in India.

The rapid growth of Indian economy over the last decade has thrown up opportunities for all sectors including the management education sector. The Indian education system is the third largest in the world, third only to USA and China catering to about 10 Million students through 0.5 Million teachers and more than 16000 higher education institutions1. Starting with the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management in 19532, the number of management institutes presently operating in the country exceeds 1100 and the number of students graduating out of the these exceeds 65000 MBAs a year3. An overall picture on growth of management programmes from 1962 to 2007 is provided by Prof.Krishna Prasad, Advisor, AICTE as shown below:

Source: Prof.Krishna Prasad, Advisor-I, AICTE 's presentation. Website URL:,14,Slide 14

Matthukutty and Sahay3 (2005) identify several factors responsible for growth in management education in India. These include use of English as a medium of communication, over 200 Million 'consuming' middle class, robust economic reforms that attracted the biggest & best companies from across the globe, huge forex reserves close to USD 143 Billion and the relative cost advantage despite salary growth in India.

While the growth in terms of numbers has been very impressive, opinions are divided on the improvements in Quality of education, especially at higher educational levels. Pillai and Vallatharai4 (2003) have opined that since 1857 "….our degree education system has been going around in circles plodding the same beaten path …. There has been an almost total systemic neglect of quality in college education. Their list of built-in failures in the education system include rigid curriculum, lack of relevance of present degree courses and their insensitivity to both the needs of the students and requirements of present day society, far from satisfactory teaching learning situations in colleges, an examination system that rewards rote learning & a general air of disinterestedness among students.

Background of Quality Improvement Initiatives

The stress on regulating quality of higher education has taken different forms as time went by. The all India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) 5 was constituted in November 1945 with the aim of promoting development in the country in a coordinated and regulated manner. "…And to ensure the same, as stipulated in, the National Policy of Education (1986), AICTE be vested with statutory authority for planning, formulation and maintenance of norms and standards, quality assurance through accreditation, funding in priority areas, monitoring and evaluation, maintaining parity of certification and awards and ensuring coordinated and integrated development and management of technical education in the country." In view of the rapid growth of technical institutions and its likely impact on quality as well as the need for maintenance of standards, Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development) constituted a National Working Group to look into the role of AICTE. The Working Group recommended that AICTE be vested with the necessary statutory authority for making it more effective.

Following the recommendations of the National Working Group, the AICTE Bill was introduced in both the Houses of Parliament and passed as the AICTE Act No. 52 of 1987 and came into force w.e.f. March 28, 1988. "The statutory All India Council for Technical Education was established on May 12, 1988 with a view to proper planning and coordinated development of technical education system throughout the country, the promotion of qualitative improvement of such education in relation to planned quantitative growth and the regulation and proper maintenance of norms and standards in the technical education system and for matters connected therewith."

The AICTE comprises of eight Bureaus, namely, Administration (Admin) Bureau, Academic (Acad.) Bureau, Engineering & Technology (E&T) Bureau, Finance (Fin) Bureau, Management & Technology (M&T) Bureau, Planning and Co-ordination (PC) Bureau, Quality Assurance (QA) Bureau, Research and Institutional Development (RID) Bureau.

The NBA website6 provides details of NBA being constituted and its role. It states, "National Board of Accreditation (NBA) was constituted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), as an Autonomous Body, under Section 10(u) of the AICTE Act,1987:

"To periodically conduct evaluation of technical Institutions or Programmes on the basis of guidelines, Norms and Standards specified by it and to make recommendations to it, AICTE or to the Council, or to the Commission or to the other bodies, regarding recognition or de-recognition of the institution or programme." NBA website6 highlights the difference between between AICTE approval and NBA accreditation as follows:

"Approval of AICTE for new Institutions or for starting new programmes is based on:

(a) Credibility of Institutional Management and the Programme providers;

(b) Assurance of Compliance to AICTE Norms and Standards;

(c) Prior approval by the State Government and University or other competent authority; and

(d) Market sensitivity of programme output, to avoid imbalance in supply of qualified manpower.

Accreditation of the institutional programme by NBA is based (on):

(a) Availability of potential for sustaining and improving upon assessment criteria;

(b) Recognition by all stake holders like the end-users, institutional products and the community at large;

(c) Demonstrated capability of the institution and programme to adhere to the qualitative criteria of Accreditation; and

(d) Assessement by peer groups of NBA experts through a visit to the institution and making relevant recommendations to the NBA."

Since NBA accreditation includes AICTE approval as well as a minimum of two batches passing out of the programme6, one can treat NBA accreditation as a higher level of achievement for an institution or programme than the AICTE approval.

The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was constituted in 1994. It evolved out of the Indian Government's National Policy on Education (1986) and was established under the provisions of Section 12 CCC of the UGC Act1. The factors that led to its birth included a realization that while affiliating Universities continued to focus on ensuring quality standards, the growth in number of institutes reduced the role of the academic leadership of Universities to mere monitoring of minimum requirements. The author opines that the affiliating model was perhaps the best model to guide a limited group of, say 20-30, colleges through one nodal academic body. Similarly, the state governments that were the major providers of the state universities and colleges, did have their annual audit and review mechanisms. Once again, these providers oversaw the monitoring mechanisms of financial and academic audit to satisfy themselves that the minimum requirements were met. The UGC constituted the Committee on Accreditation and Assessment Council in 1986 to work on the approaches and method for assessment and accreditation suitable for higher education institutions in the country. This committee outlined a few strong measures on linking accreditation with central funds as well as closure on non accredited institutions. Some recommendations of the committee were modified later on. NAAC was constituted in 1994 with the following objectives:

Grade institutions of higher education and their programmes

Stimulate the academic environment and quality of teaching and research in these institutions

Help institutions realize their academic objectives

Promote necessary changes, innovations and reforms in all aspects of the institutions working for the above purpose

Encourage innovations, self-evaluation and accountability in higher education

NAAC Audits follow a three stage approach using an assessment criteria that includes Curricular aspects, Teaching-learning and evaluation, Research, consultancy and extension, Infrastructure and learning resources, Student support and progression, Organization and Management and Healthy practices. The relative weightage to these factors varies depending upon whether the body being assessed is a University, Autonomous College or Affiliated/Constituent College. A weighted average score is computed to get the Institutional Score and used by NAAC to get the overall grade. These grades vary from A++ (Institutional score between 95 and 100) to C (Institutional score between 55 and 60). Any institution that does not attain the minimum 55% score is notified that the institution is "Assessed and Found Not qualified for Accreditation". The accreditation outcome is valid for a period for 5 years from the date of the meeting of the Executive Committee that declares the outcome though an institution that wishes to improve its grade can apply for reassessment after a period of one year. NAAC has also evolved a re-accreditation framework for institutions that have completed 5 years of accredited status.

NAAC evolved its policies, principles and instruments for 3-4 years after being constituted in 1994 and began assessments in 1998. Since 1998, NAAC has seen a rapid rise in the number of institutions seeking accreditation. NAAC's Annual Report of 2006-07 indicates the number of institutes accredited to be 9 in 1998-99, 34 in 1999-2000, 84 in 2000-01, 71 in 2001-02, 241 in 2002-03, 672 in 2003-04, 1372 in 2004-05, 383 in 2005-06 and 879 in 2006-07 indicating increasing acceptance and respect for NAAC accreditation process7.

Managing and Improving Quality in a Changing World : The Challenge

The unceasing efforts by Indian government, various State governments as well as Universities has certainly helped the quality of Management education in the country. However, with the recent spurt of Management institutions and the changing scenario, concerns have resurfaced whether more needs to done to meet the needs of the future. The challenge is no different from that faced by institutions worldwide. As pointed out by the Academy of Management Learning and Education8 (2009) the following global trends are forcing business schools to reconsider the design and implementation of their technology management education programs:

Increase in the public and private investment in technology. Several agents, in the public and private sectors, are typically involved in the growth and formation of new technology based firms, as well as development and implementation of new technologies in large companies.

Rise in the incidence of collaborative research and commercialization besides increasing outsourcing of basic research by industrial companies to universities with universities also partnering in subsequent commercialization.

Recent substantial growth in entrepreneurship educational programs at colleges and universities coinciding with university technology transfer activities. The publication quotes Nelson and Byers (2005) that there are over 4600 entrepreneurship courses at over 1700 universities and colleges in the US alone.

Rise in the knowledge/intellectual property based economy in advanced industrial countries and strengthening of intellectual property rights. Inevitably, those who intellectual property and knowledge will play a bigger role in achieving and sustaining competitive advantage, be it at the level of firms, regions or states, nations.

Phan, Siegel and Wright9 (2009) examined the educational implications of the recent trends in technology management and the study highlighted the need for increased emphasis on collaborative research, commercialization of intellectual property, entrepreneurship, venture capital, and research centres dedicated to emerging technologies. The authors stress the need to appoint program directors with strong boundary-spanning skills that can link up with technology based units both, on and off campuses. While business schools in US and UK have chosen to remain independent from the rest of university, they now need stronger connection with engineering, sciences and other technology oriented organizations in the areas of medicine, public health and pharmacy as well as science based business incubators and science parks.

Sciglimpaglia and Toole10 conducted a comparison of American and Australian business schools regarding utilization of field-based consulting (FBC) and associated critical variables. One of the difference pointed out is that Australia has "….no major generally accreditation process for business schools apart from accreditation by professional accounting associations and there is nothing equivalent to an association of business schools. By experiencing the consultation process, students are required to integrate all they have learnt in their prior education to bring relevant tools to their consultancy engagement. The course is frequently structured along the lines of a consulting firm." The study evaluated perceived advantages of FBC, alternative implementations, grading policies, faculty related issues, and key success factors. The study suggests a much higher use of FBCs in American colleges or universities compared to the Australian counterparts (65.4% in America versus 35.5 in Australia). This difference is larger at the graduate level as compared to the undergraduate level (80% versus 56.9%). The reasons for this could include American business schools practicing more outreach activities than their Australian counterparts, the need for funding in American business schools while those in Australia are government funded, the greater prevalence of students with prior work experience in American business schools or the greater emphasis on formal examinations in Australian business institutions. Among the student factors that favourably affect FBC experience are small class size (optimal being less than 20) with students studying for a full time programme and working on team consulting rather than individual consulting. While the greater prevalence of students with work experience in American business schools may be a fact, a study carried out by Yeaple, Johnston and Wittingham11 to assess the economic value of pre-MBA work experience found no evidence of a systematic financial advantage to students from working for several years before enrolling for a full-time MBA course. This was despite the fact that students with less work experience had slightly lower starting salaries (related Hypothesis weakly supported in data) the difference was overcome by these students getting an earlier start in their careers. The study showed that prospective MBA students may, in fact, incur a financial penalty by delaying their MBA for in exchange of work experience. This study shifts the focus to understanding how markets (students or employers) perceive MBA education and institutions. Amaral12 (2006) traces the increasing role of markets in higher education starting with the Thatcher governments 3 E's for public services, namely, Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness. Since efficient operation of the market requires perfect competition, and several of the conditions for perfect competition are difficult to fulfill in higher education, there is a need to regulate higher education by governments. Amaral12 (2006) quotes Dill and Soo's (2004) three characteristics of higher education:

Its an 'experience', meaning that its relevant characteristics can only be effectively assessed through consumption.

It is a rare purchase, as a student, in principle, enrols in a single degree programme throughout his professional life.

Opting-out costs are high, as changing a programme or institution has high associated costs (Dill and Soo, 2004).

Amaral12 (2006) argues that the higher education market resembles a quasi market more than a consumer oriented market where students and their families may not always act in a rational manner possessing and utilizing all relevant information for their decisions.

Newton13 (2006) paper on "What is Quality" discusses the origins of quality in higher education and examines the purpose of quality, including accountability and improvements required. The paper asserts that firstly, the preponderant approach to defining quality is a pragmatic one and, secondly, that the preponderant approach to external quality evaluation is also pragmatic….In practical terms, the most constructive way forward is to adopt an approach which acknowledges the relative nature of quality: relative to stakeholders, context, and to the particular assurance mechanisms with which it has become associated, such as assessment, audit, accreditation. The paper states that ethnographic study of 'frontline' academics' revealed that quality was taking on particular contextualized meanings and that the difference between 'formal meanings' and 'situated meanings' pointed to the 'politics of quality'. His table (below) encapsulating the contrast between the dominant formal meanings of 'quality' that emerged in early 1990s, and the situated perceptions of 'quality' (of frontline academics) that became apparent later provided indications that quality was associated with 'ritualism' and 'tokenism', and impression management.

Table 1:

Dominant formal meanings of 'quality' in the early 1990s

Situated perceptions of 'quality' of front-line academics: post-1990s

Quality as 'perfection' or 'consistency'

Quality as 'value for money'

Quality as 'total quality'

Quality as 'management commitment

Quality as 'failure to close the loop'

Quality as 'burden'

Quality as 'lack of mutual trust'

Quality as 'suspicion of management motives'

Quality as 'culture change'

Quality as 'peer review'

Quality as 'culture of getting by'

Quality as 'impression management' and 'game playing'

Quality as 'transforming the learner'

Quality as 'fitness for purpose'

Quality as 'exceptional' or 'excellence'

Quality as 'customer satisfaction'

Quality as 'constraints on teamwork'

Quality as 'discipline and technology'

Quality as 'ritualism and tokenism'

Quality as 'front-line resistance'

Source: Jethro Newton (2006) "What is Quality", presented at 1st European Forum for Quality Assurance, 23-25 Nov. 2006

Newton13 (2006) concludes with the following lessons about quality management and the management of change:

Managers must learn to deal with ambiguity

Acknowledging tensions between accountability and improvement can provide a basis for intervening with purpose.

Self-evaluation provides an appropriate bases for managing quality or managing change.

Karin Fischer-Bluhm's14 (2006) study of the experience of a network of seven North German Universities to improve study programmes and teaching is based on a multi-perspective and multidimensional definition of quality where quality is viewed as on-going process of improvement and defined according to the points of view of different actors and to different university functions. The paper emphasizes the concept of quality culture. The paper reports that "Since 1994 evaluation procedures have been jointly conducted in the Consortium of Northern German Universities. The discursive and action-oriented procedures fulfill the national standards set by the German Science Council and the German Rectors' Conference in 1996 and also those required nowadays by ENQA on the European level:

Thorough analysis of strengths and weaknesses (self-assessment)

External assessment by peer review

Assessment meeting

Goal agreement for the consequences

Publication of the results"

Karin Fischer-Bluhm's14 (2006) study concludes that:

Synergistic effects in a network are quality improvement as previously agreed upon as well as sustainable and cost effective solutions for future challenges.

Cooperation in Consortium concentrates in areas where the universities benefit, but don't compete with each other.

Quality culture is severely disturbed if quality valuation is perceived a being irrelevant, exclusively financially motivated or arbitrary. Assessment procedures must follow the principle of fairness, independence, and utility besides being applied in a transparent manner with regard to goals, method and usage of valuation criteria.

Clarysse, Mosey and Lambrecht15 (2009) carried out an interview-based study on new trends in technology management education in Europe. Based on initial interview they identified two important trends: A change in demand for more specific technology management skills and an evolution in the anticipated outcomes of education programs toward organizational renewal and venturing. Based on these findings, the authors developed typology for four kinds of educational programs followed by identifying pioneers in developing new projects or approaches in the field of technology management education. These included Finmeccanica from Italy for its in-house FHINK, masters in international business engineering; CREAX for specialized and adapted TRIZ methodology, used for creativity training; Alcatel-Lucent for "entrepreneurial boot camps" to provide entrepreneurial skills for technologists; and Judge Business School at Cambridge University, UK for masters in technology and innovation management. This was followed by further interviews of key individuals in these pioneering organizations so as to compare their approach to other organizations. The challenges identified for business schools included the following:

Finding faculty that can deliver entrepreneurially oriented programmes like the boot camp. While MBA-type programmes provided generic skills, emphasizing on theory abstracted from any single industry or technology, specific skills courses tend to be shorter and tend to be delivered by consultants with high credibility and in-depth experience wherein the courses emphasize skills development rooted within an industry or technology context.

Addressing the lack of specific technology skills and industry knowledge demanded by companies. The authors observe that providing a general MBA is not sufficient and more is needed, "Business education needs to be embedded in the specificities of the technology and industry, which means that the academics who teach also need to have very specific technology or industry knowledge in order to be successful."

Integrating with Universities to interact with technology and engineering schools to capture the opportunities inherent to knowledge based economy at the cost of autonomy to price and grade their MBA programmes.

The changes and trends highlighted by this study include a move from traditional MBA-focused programs moving to entrepreneurial "boot camps", from case study-oriented teaching to a mentoring approach, and from an emphasis on general-business towards working across disciplines without losing sensitivity to underlying technologies.

Prades and Rodri´guez16 (2006) carried out a study on what institutions can learn from graduate surveys. The study warns of the need to take into account the complexity and multidimensionality of the graduate's transition to employment while analyzing graduate surveys. The conclusions of the study include (a) The complex process of transition to the labour market means that the results of employment surveys should be taken as a source of different types of evidence by various stakeholders, though they should in no way be used out of context nor be used as determining factors for the university's actions; (b) The content of the surveys should include variables that prove useful for analytical processes concerning the programme specification, the scope of practical work in the curriculum and career services. The most significant indicators for each of these would be: Design of the programme specification, Employment/unemployment rate, Quality of employment, Job functions, Satisfaction with the training received (level of training), Competences required (level of training - extent to which the competences are required on the job), Scope of practical work in the curriculum, Career services, Job functions, Competences required, Career services, Employment background (work during studies), Ways to gain access, Contracting factors, Type of contracts, and Competences required.

Laha17 (2002) carried out a study of surveys of management institutes and pointed out inconsistencies between the different surveys. The list the determinants of quality in management education include academic Environment, intellectual Capital, physical infrastructure, industry interface, placement, stakeholder satisfaction and perception and innovation. The list of limitations in the survey methodology include lack of systematic data validation exercise by the body conducting the survey, use of different parameters and weights assigned to parameters, and difference in the method of scoring. Also, many B-Schools do not participate in all surveys. The study suggests that surveys should categorize management institutes instead of ranking them.

Hazelkorn18 (2008) addresses the issue of ranking Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and states that while ranking as a performance assessment mechanism is not very popular, the issues involved are quite complex. The competition among higher educational institutions for talent and students now complements more traditional struggle for natural resources. The popularity of rankings has risen because they are perceived to provide independent information about the quality of higher education. However, because higher education is seen as a motor of the economy, global rankings appear to order global knowledge by hierarchically arranging the biggest and most prestigious producers of knowledge thereby providing a gauge of competitiveness measured by the number of HEIs in the top 25, 50 or 100. Different rankings compare HEI using different indicators weighed differently depending upon the priorities of the producers with information generally collected from three sources, namely (a) independent third part sources, (b) HEIs themselves, and (c) survey of students, employers etc. Because rankings rely on quantitative data, they rely on factors that are easy to measure rather than those that may be most appropriate. Hazelkorn18 (2008) concludes that while debate on rankings focuses on indicators used and their suitability as proxies, whether it is possible to compare complex HEIs with different missions and contexts through choice of indicators with differing weightages, the fact that students, employers, academic and industry partners as well as Governments use ranking data, makes rankings very important for HEIs and impacts their actions. One evidence is the change driven because of importance attached to research and productivity leading to HEIs' increasing interest in high achievers with high citation status (HiCi). With investments in the range of 1.5-2 Bn USD in setting up a world class university, HEIs have become increasingly responsive to rankings and rankings have taken on a QA function that are equated with excellence.

The most recent change, as far as management education is concerned relates to the role of managers in the recent financial crisis. Podolny, 200919 expresses anger for the inattention to ethics and value based leadership in business schools and shows that trust has eroded in the last one year in senior management at the US (76%) as well as non US companies (51%). Podolny suggests that dealing with this distrust requires business schools to demonstrate that they value what society values. The steps suggested for this include appointing teaching teams, encouraging qualitative (and not just quantitative), stopping competing on single number based rankings and withdrawing degrees for violating codes of conduct.

Conclusions and Recommendations For A Changing scenario

Besides the challenge of ensuring high quality, Management education in India is faced with yet more challenges on account of significant changes in the educational system at different levels:

As far as school education is concerned, the Indian Government is considering towards scrapping examinations at the 10th Standard level.

There has been an increasing acceptance of the idea that foreign educational institutions will play a bigger role in Indian education requiring Indian institutions to compete globally.

Business education worldwide is undergoing changes with increasing focus on research, funding and market perceptions.

Meeting these challenges effectively in a manner that helps the student community at large will require fresh perspectives into management programmes. It is clear from this study that there are several concurrent practices in the world of management education and no single practice has been identified as a best practice that would address all scenarios for all businesses at all times. Thus, management institutes need to gear up to the needs of changes within their environment as well as challenges from changing business scenarios. Based on the study conducted, the following stand out as good practices that could be considered for incorporating in Management education in India:

Governmental bodies like AICTE, NAAC and NBA have contributed immensely to improving quality of management and higher education in the country through highly evolved practices and accreditation mechanism. However, the rapid growth of management institutions as well as continuously changing educational scenario can be expected to continue presenting fresh challenges to this bodies for improving quality of management education in the country.

Quality of management education needs to be defined in practical terms taking intro account the needs of different stakeholders.

The experience of North German Universities suggests the possibility of greater effectiveness in ensuring higher quality through a management forum or consortium of institutes that work on constantly upgrading themselves through self assessment based on evaluation criteria jointly developed while also meeting standards set by National accreditation or certification bodies.

Considering the rapid changes in technology and its increasing impact on management education, it is essential that management sciences expand their focus on knowledge assimilation, knowledge dissemination as well as knowledge creation. Increased focus on research productivity could be a possible measure for knowledge creation while knowledge assimilation and dissemination are perception based likely to be reflected in the institutional rankings.

The entry of foreign educational institutions in India is likely to change the educational scenario significantly and Indian business schools will need to compete globally. Here too, the benefits of a management forum or consortium can not be over emphasized on account of the immense benefits it provides in terms of joint learning, knowledge assimilation and dissemination. The increased focus on experiential learning increases the need for innovative management education practices like field based consulting. However, experience of Australian and American universities suggests that the prevalence of such methods could be related to the funding needs and practices at business schools besides other factors.

Given the need to gear up to the changing scenario in the business world and the field of management education, funding of management education and projects is likely to gain in importance. It is important that there be a transparent mechanism that encompasses all educational institutions in the country and funding be provided based on the nature or importance of project besides demonstrated commitment to deliver on promises made.

The recent financial crisis and meltdown as well as much publicized corporate frauds earlier point to a need for greater stress on corporate ethics in management education.

Limitations of the study and Opportunities for Further Research

The following stand out as limitations of the study to be addressed through further research:

Much of the data presented here relates to non Indian institutions while management education is significantly impacted by local markets and conditions. There is scope to examine the application of given data and conclusions in Indian context.

The study is qualitative in nature and not quantitative presenting an opportunity to conduct rigorous statistical or quantitative analysis for validation of conclusions. Being in the nature of desk study, lack of field research data is a distinct limitation of the study that could be addressed through indepth research as well as utilization of modern research tools.